||Stockings which are also known as hosiery, or hose, and
popularly as "Nylons",
are coverings for legs and feet.
Early references to hosiery go back to the ancient Greeks. Workmen and
hosiery in ancient times, and Roman woman wore a short
sock (called a soccus) in
their homes. Silk or cotton socks were also
worn in Japan and China for centuries.
Socks evolved into stockings in 12th century Europe. Breeches worn by
close fitting, reaching from the waist to the foot like
modern tights. Women wore
stockings held up at the knee by garters.
After 1545 knitted stockings came into fashion, their seams were often
elaborate silk patterns, or "clocks". This
term is still in use today as "fancy feet" the
seam treatments that were popular during the late 40's and early 50's.
Pictures of our Modern Hosiery Mill in the USA
||William Lee, an English clergyman, made the
first knitting machine in 1589. Silk and cotton were the popular
of the era.
Silk of course was the choice of royalty as the
discovery of the New World opened up trade in this rare and luxurious
There were many different ways to wear stockings. Silk stockings were
sometimes worn several pairs at a time in cold weather.
In the 17th
century when large boots were in fashion, linen "boot hose"
were worn to protect the silk stockings underneath.
They had wide lace
tops, which were turned over the boots. Men continued to wear silk
stockings with garters until the end
of the 18th century, but long
trousers begin to appear and socks have been worn underneath ever
In the 19th century machine-made cotton stockings became available for
women. After World War I (1914-1918) short
skirts were fashionable and
long silk stockings were worn again, once again, proving that fashion
and skirt length determine
With the discovery and ultimate use of Dupont Nylon in the late 30's
and early 40's, the primacy of silk in
women's hosiery waned. Silk was
ultimately replaced by nylon after the war. But it was not without
challenges from other
man made fibers such as Rayon, Bamberg, and
Nylon stockings which became popular after World War II (1939-1945)
and completely replaced the silk stocking usually
had seams until the
late 1960's. They were knitted flat and "fully fashioned"
which means that they were shaped to fit the leg
like modern sweaters.
By decreasing the number of stitches as the stocking was knit towards
the ankle, a garment was
created that was "knit to fit".
By the early sixties, "fully fashioned" stockings were
rapidly replaced by modern reinforced heel and toe seamless stockings.
Seamless stockings are made on a circular knitting machines and are
shaped by tightening the stitches. Hosiery is often
described as being
of a particular "denier", which means the thickness of the
yarn. The gauge describes the number of
stitches in a row.
In the 1960's when skirts were worn very short, many women began to
wear tights (pantyhose) instead of stockings. To
show, "a bit of
stocking", was no longer accepted and while stockings fought for
market share by becoming extremely long,
they became nearly extinct as
pantyhose gained in popularity.
We are fortunate in the year 2004 to have the benefit of many
"stocking enthusiasts", who have kept this garment alive for
many admirers. We at "StockingOnly.com" intend to
carry this tradition forward!
||Definition of Hosiery Terms
This is an Italian measurement for knitting yarn which equals
5 centigrams per meter of
yarn. The weight of the denier is obtained
by weighing 450 meters of thread of nylon,
silk or rayon. If 450
meters weighs 5 grams, the thread is called a 100 denier thread.
base of 450 meters being the standard measure, the weight of the
determine its caliber. The lighter the thread (the less
number of deniers) the finer the
weave. A 15 denier yarn is twice as
fine as 30 denier yarn. The most popular denier
for day/evening is
still 15d, 30 denier has been popularized as "business
70d as "service sheer". "ultra sheer"
or "evening dress sheer" stockings can be
15d, 12d or 10d.
The sheerest practical denier is 7d, which is so wispy sheer
literally disappears on the leg!
(and is so fragile that it can barely
survive one wearing)
There is much confusion about the meaning of "gauge" in the
determination of stocking quality and sheerness. Gauge is an
English unit of measure. It is a characteristic of rectilinear
knitting machines. It corresponds to the number of needles in a
38-millimeter section of the knitting bed, circular or flat. A 60
gauge knitting machine has 60 needles to a 38 mm section.
It is obvious that, the more needles you have in this standard
invariable 38 mm section, the finer the needles must be, and
the tighter the weave. The monofilament or flat pure nylon thread of
15 deniers was the thread most widely used in the
knitting of fine stockings.
The two most common gauges in fully-fashioned knitting were 51g and
60g. 60 gauge stockings have smoother, denser
look and feel and are highly prized! 51 gauge stockings were easier to
knit as the machines had fewer needles and ran
more efficiently than the 60 gauge. These stockings were still highly
desirable, but were slightly less expensive, and used
for "fashion" and popular priced stockings.
Full-fashioned stockings are knitted flat, then fashioned, or shaped
by mechanical manipulation by programmed chains
that articulated cams to drop needles from the knitting process
creating the famous "fashioning marks" on the backs of
the stocking. (The little V's on the back near the seams are created
when a stitch is cast off, just like in hand knitting
a sweater) The stockings are then joined at the back on a looping
machine by hand, creating the seam up the back.
The actual knitting is done on a flat knitting machine first developed
in Loughborough, Leicestershire, England by
William Cotton in 1864. See
the Pictures of our Hosiery Mill.
The stocking is started at the top with the welt, with an extra-thick
section for gartering. Reducing the number of needles
at the ankle, then adding needles at the heel, and again reducing the
number through the foot shape to the fabric.
The modern fully-fashioned machine was made from 1940-1960 by Reading
Machinery Company in Reading,
who stopped production of the machines in the early 1960's. In the
years '59 and early 60's you could
purchase one of the
later models, which they called the R100, but, you had to order four
of them. The cost was
a little over $750,000 each for this special order.
The length of the machine is about 45 feet long, and it could make 30
stockings concurrently. The company started
out in its early days making a single section which made one stocking. Soon after
machines added length, to make 15
(half section machines) stockings, and then went to full section machines (thirty
Tragically, there are fewer than ten working machines in the world
today! We know of many inactive machines, however,
the skilled technicians required to program the timing chains and
maintain the machines have long gone.
What about the needles?
A 60 gauge machine with a full head of needles has about 600 needles
per head. Since 600 x 30 heads comes to
18,000 needles, knitting this ultra luxury produced became an incredible
challenge. These needles cost approximately
five cents each.
That means it can cost up to $9,000 in needles alone!
This is a natural chemical process added to the dye bath to improve
the look, feel, and wear of the stocking. Lanolin is a
natural substance found in the animal fat of sheep that is used in
soap and hair conditioner products. Manufacturers used
different degrees of lanolin application to their hosiery. The most
famous was "Albert's". Their stockings were called,
"Velvetized", and contained a heavy lanoline treatment.
Albert's stockings are highly prized for their high sheen and velvet
touch. Hanes and others also used this process effectively.
Modern stockings use silicon to achieve the same effect. Because the
lanolin has adverse effects on the Lycra that is knit
into almost all modern hosiery lanolin is rarely used in modern
51 gauge machines are not as fussy as the 60 gauge machines. They will
run cold or hot. The tolerances are not nearly
as precise as the 60 gauge. 60 gauge machines have more needles at a
closer tolerance than the 51 gauge machines.
A closer tolerance on the set up, or gauging must be kept to maintain
manufacturing tolerances. Factories must maintain
the temperature (summer and winter) within 4 degrees, 74 to 78 degrees. Very
difficult! When it gets below 74, the
machines won't knit properly, over 78 and the same problem occurs. You may have 5 or 6
good stockings out of 30.
The others are unusable! See
the Pictures of our Hosiery Mill.
Every pattern is on a continual chain of 120 feet and about 8"
wide which has studs pressed into the links. These studs
tell the machine what it should do, so every design needs a new stud pattern,
which is a hugely complicated operation.
After manufacture each stocking is seamed, one at a time. People often
ask why there is a hole at the top of the seam.
is called the 'finishing loop', or "key hole back", which
cannot be eliminated as the seaming machinist has to finish
the seam turning the stocking top, otherwise known as the welt, inside out.
Every stocking is manufactured white, or "in the greige",
and must be piece dyed, as a finished garment to the desired color.
They must then be "boarded", a process where each stocking
is pulled over a flat metal leg form, and heat set with steam.
This tightens the knit, defines the leg shape correctly and removes
creases. Thereafter each stocking is checked for size to
ensure that pairs match. Quality control for faults, large and small,
can result in a loss of a third of production.
Circular Knit Stockings
Modern stockings and pantyhose are knit on circular machines
eliminating need for the back seam. Circular knit stockings
originally were made with reinforced heel and toes, this was
accomplished by using a "reticulating heel" machine, also
by Reading. This machine actually knit the heel pocket into the
stockings using a devise that knit the foot first, then the heel
pocket and finally the leg and welt. This created the "V" in
the heel that we all know and love.
During the early years of circular knit stockings, the heels and toes
were reinforced similarly to the original full fashioned
stockings, this gave the consumer the assurance that sharp nails or
rough shoes would not cause the stockings to run. Later stockings were
knit with different types of reinforcements on the toes and heels,
eventually reinforcements we discontinued!
Stockings reinforcements evolved from standard circular toes to tear
drop toes, a toe that was seamed under the foot and
looked like a teardrop, Demi-toes, a very dressy look with a 1/2 toe
reinforcement, and finally to sandal foot with a nude
toe for sandals. Heels also evolved from fully reinforced heels to the
scalloped heel, and eventually, to evolve finally to the
nude heel, and again to the fully nude, sandal foot stocking.
What about the different types of knits?
Regular flat knit: This is the original knit made on all stockings
until 1945. It is a smooth stitch that is silky and soft to the
touch. It has a wonderful shine and is the premier knitting technique
of the era.
Kant run: This knit was developed to help prevent
runs in the stockings. It is a lock-stitch and has a slightly rougher
Micromesh: This stitch was developed to create a
matte finish on the stocking that was very popular during the 60's. It
soft and smooth, but not as silky as regular flat knit.
Pebble mesh: A very rough knit to prevent runs used
in teen and utilitarian stockings.
Textures: Patterned stockings. Diamonds,
herringbones, and waves were the most popular. These styles were very
popular during the 60's. Hosiery companies began to buy modern Italian
knitting machines which had infinite knitting
possibilities that allowed enormous variations.
As modern knitting techniques improved and the machinery became more
expensive and complicated, stockings evolved
through several phases. See
the Pictures of our Hosiery Mill.
Modern machines knit tubes that are boarded, or "heat set"
to the shape of the leg; the heel pocket was no longer knit-in as
in the 50's. To improve fit, the yarn companies came up with several
"improvements" that would forever change the future
of classic hosiery.
The first was the stretch stocking, actually a crimped yarn that was
knit and packaged unboarded in a limited size range
that conformed to
the leg when worn. Popular brands were, Cling-Along, Agilon, and
Cantrece. The ultimate fit solution
effects the stockings made today, is to add Lycra, another Dupont
invention that creates an elasticized stretch
clings to the leg to the knitting yarn. This is used in almost all
modern stockings and pantyhose.
The effect is to create a support
stocking effect. The unfortunate sacrifice is the original sheer
stocking effect that is so
dear to the true stocking connoisseur.